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Helen Swain

News October 8, 2019

Michael Vizard writes:

Helen died on 29th June, aged ninety. She was a member of the summer course committee for many years, starting, as I did, under Peter Tatham when he was the course director. 

She was also the pottery studio leader for many years. She was a brilliant potter in her own right and a higher education teacher. She was a modest, warm, gentle person. Those who remember her will do so with much fondness and respect. She loved the summer course in all its aspects. 

doulton tea set
Some of Helen’s work for Royal Doulton

A summer course regular writes, “Her … workshop was a wonderful experience, with Helen moving gently among us, sometimes relating and responding, and sometimes focusing on the work in hand with the occasional enquiry or suggestion, always helpful and so encouraging.” 

Her daughter, Becky, was a member of the course on two occasions. She has given permission for me to quote from the tribute she gave at Helen’s funeral: “… Mum was a potter and made beautiful bowls, vases and objects in stoneware and porcelain. She … trained at Willesden and then Hornsey College of Art, and worked at potteries … in Cornwall, Greece and Spain. She worked at the Harry Davis Pottery and with Agnete Hoy at Royal Doulton. She was founder member of the Craftsmen Potters Association from 1958, taught at Goldsmith’s College, and had a pottery at home.

Helen’s mark

HS her mark

 … The summer course at Cumberland Lodge… a place to recharge batteries, to focus back on (our) creativity and questions about life… where for twenty-two years she took part in dance, painting or writing workshops and singing together every morning. Mum was the clay specialist in the cool basement… where she earned the nickname, The Goddess of the Underworld. Many have taken time to tell me that they are indebted to Mum for her gentle support and guidance in those years. Mum’s address book contains a world of friends… a woman they could share both difficulties and joy with … loving, encouraging … insightful, fun and kind.

Mum had a favourite string of words through her life, lines from … The Four Quartets by … TS Eliot:

 At the still point of the turning world … there the dance is. 

She appreciated that the best things  about being human can never be fully understood. For Mum, the curiosity was part of what made life worth living, asking questions and seeking  answers to life’s mysteries. “

With the love and care of Becky, her brother Laurence, and others, Helen was able to remain in the home she had shared for so long with her husband Stan until she died. 

Written by: Michael Vizard

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